Viet Nam takes big leap in fight vs asbestos

In a move towards the development of a roadmap to end the use of white asbestos in roof production by 2023, the Ministry of Construction, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Office in Viet Nam, held a technical consultation meeting on 12 October in Hanoi. Focusing on the harmful effects of white asbestos to human health, the meeting outcomes have established scientific evidence to support the said anti-asbestos initiative in the country.

Left to right: Dr Nguyen Thi Lien Huong, Professor Ken Takahashi, Dr Kidong Park and Vice Minister Professor Dr Nguyen Thanh Long
Photo credit: WHO Viet Nam/Loan Tran

Mr Nguyen Van Sinh, Vice Minister of Construction, Professor Dr Nguyen Thanh Long, Vice Minister of Health, and Dr Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Viet Nam, co-chaired the meeting.

Professor Ken Takahashi, Director of Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, Australia, one of the meeting’s keynote speakers, presented scientific evidence highlighting asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, asbestosis and pleural plaques. “The use of asbestos caused an estimated 225,000 death in 2015 globally. Of these, 180,000 deaths were caused by asbestos-induced lung cancer, and 30,000 were of mesothelioma,” Professor Takahashi stressed.

Dr Nguyen Van Son, Deputy Director of National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health (NIOEH), and Dr Tran Thanh Huong, Deputy Director of National Cancer Research Institute, discussed the long latency of asbestos-related diseases, as well as the difficulties in their diagnosis. Initial treatment and diagnosis could reach US$ 2000–3000.

Mr Nguyen Van Sinh emphasized the need to prohibit the use of asbestos in Viet Nam and highlighted the importance of having a clear roadmap in place to do so. The Ministry of Construction will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and WHO in the end-to-end process of the said roadmap’s development. WHO will provide support as Viet Nam moves forward with the process of completely banning the use of asbestos.

Viet Nam as a growing middle-income country should be able to afford providing its people, including the most vulnerable, with safe asbestos-free roofing for houses. It’s now a critical time to take actions in realizing this important decision to protect the health of the people.

Dr Kidong Park, WHO Representative to Viet Nam
Dr Park said as WHO called for Viet Nam to develop capacity in dealing with asbestos-containing materials once the ban has been set

Asbestos is a material used in the production of roof sheets, primarily used for houses in poor and remote areas of Viet Nam . There has been strong scientific evidence confirming the harmful effects of all types of asbestos, including white asbestos, to human health. In Viet Nam, safe substitutes for asbestos in construction have been produced in industrial quantities.